What are morning pages?
Basically, they are three pages written by hand first thing each morning. They are simply stream-of-consciousness and can be repetitive, whiny, complaining – there are no rules for the content, simply that you get out whatever is in your head onto the page, without stopping, for three pages. Another way of looking at them is as a ‘brain dump’ to get everything out of your mind. It is the junk in our mind that blocks us creatively, which is why the pages work well as a tool for creative recovery.
Julia Cameron – author of The Artist’s Way – says that morning pages are not negotiable:
Never skip or skimp on morning pages. Your mood doesn’t matter… We have this idea that we need to be in the mood to write. We don’t.
Some people swear by morning pages and won’t start the day without them. Others have tried many times to get into the habit, but can’t quite find their morning pages groove.
One of the other guidelines that Cameron recommends for the morning pages is to not reread them, at least not for a while – in fact, some people throw them out. This emphasises how they are intended as an exercise in emptying the mind of junk (something we would throw out) rather than gathering memories or recording our lives (something we would keep). Cameron describes morning pages as the following:
Three pages of whatever crosses your mind – that’s all there is to it. If you can’t think of anything to write, then write “I can’t think of anything to write…” Do this until you have filled three pages.
However, some believe that morning pages can hold wisdom in them, if we want to go back over them at some point. This makes sense. After writing them for a period of time – such as three months, say – if we look back over them then some things will become quite apparent: things we continuously complain about but never do anything about, patterns and habits that are not serving us, ideas for creative projects, areas in which we have grown, etc. Used in this way, the morning pages are not only a tool for creative recovery, but also a tool for personal growth.
Some people might not keep a separate journal for their morning pages – in fact, they might do their morning pages and journaling in the one notebook (and yes, morning pages and journaling are two different things). This is what I do, because I don’t strictly follow the morning pages ‘rules’ and I want to keep what I’ve written.
For those that are consistent with their morning pages, I can see how doing them in a cheap school exercise or composition notebook would make sense, because you would go through them pretty quickly. If you are using a beautiful journal for writing morning pages, you might find yourself trying to keep your writing neat, tidy and possibly even censoring parts of what you are saying, so as not so ruin your nice journal with whining or negative thoughts. In that sense, the morning pages won’t work nearly as well.
If you’re new to morning pages, I would recommend getting a cheap notebook to use. Make sure it is not something precious. You are going to be writing quickly, you are going to be writing about any and everything – sometimes it won’t even make sense. You are going to end up repeating yourself and probably complaining. But that’s ok – in fact, that’s good, because that is the whole point of the morning pages – to get that out of your head. It’s better on the page than in your head. Cameron says,
There is no wrong way to do morning pages. These daily morning meanderings are not meant to be art. Or even writing… Nothing is too petty, too silly, too stupid or too weird to be included.
And after all this, you might be wondering why even go to the trouble of writing three pages each morning? Besides unblocking your creative energy as mentioned above, morning pages have two other, very powerful outcomes:
- You will start to get sick of hearing yourself complain about the things you don’t like in your life, and this will lead you to take action. As Cameron says: ‘It is very difficult to complain about a situation morning after morning, month after month, without being moved to constructive action. The pages lead us out of despair and into undreamed-of solutions.’
- You will connect with your own inner wisdom and intuition, which can guide you in any area of your life: ‘Anyone who faithfully writes morning pages will be led to a connection with a source of wisdom within.’
Do you write morning pages? Or would you like to start? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.
17 thoughts on “Journal spotlight: Morning pages journal”
I have never done morning pages before, but reading your article interested me in trying it out. It makes a lot of sense to dump everything that is on your mind first thing in the morning and start the day fresh. Thank you so much.
You’re welcome Silvana. I hope you give them a try – I think you will be amazed at how things change in your life. Let me know how it goes! 🙂
I love morning pages. I don’t do them every day, but I pull them out when I start to feel blocked, and they pretty much always help.
Yes I think even not doing them every day could be helpful – just using them when we feel blocked.
I’ve thought about this but I try to jog in the morning and then off to work; I love the idea behind them for rainy days though!
Good on you for exercising in the morning! I struggle with that a lot!
Great article Jen! , I read The Artists Way over the Christmas holiday and really enjoyed it . I have been wanting to read it again and actually do the exercises etc, however it’s the morning pages that are causing me to procrastinate lol. I am not a morning person and already wake up at 5.30am to get to work on time , the thought of waking up any earlier sounds like torture ! 🙂
What are your thoughts on writing ‘morning pages’ in the evening rather ?
Do you reckon it would still have the same outcome ?
Hi Sheila! That’s so funny because my next post is about writing them in the evening. I do mine at night because I’m so not a morning person at all. I still get a lot out of them, and I feel as though it is better than nothing! I say just make your own rules and do what works for you. 🙂
I have tried Morning Pages only once for a short period of time. I think it is time to try this again. I am feeling blocked in life not just creatively- but blocked in everything. Maybe these will help me…
Yes! I think they will definitely help you unblock in all areas of your life, Rachel 🙂
I like the idea of morning pages, but I’ve never managed to commit to doing them… either in the morning or at any other point of the day very consistently for very long, despite wanting that to be a part of my practice.
In the periods when I’ve been semi-consistent with at least doing something daily, I found that doing them first thing in the morning was often very different than other points of the day. I don’t tend to wake up in a good mood. I carry a lot of resentment toward having to get out of bed and start my day, and I found myself kinda resenting doing the pages first thing in the morning because of how it forced me to recognize and be cognizant of that pattern in my life.
I can totally relate to not feeling good when I wake up first thing. For some reason I went through a period of my life where I needed to do them first thing each day and I woke up at 6am (willingly!) without too much trouble to do them. Now I can’t seem to get back to that space! They certainly do force you to look at bad patterns and habits, which can be uncomfortable!
I’m in a burn out at the moment and my mind overflows with thoughts and anxietys at this point. I think it’s an interesting idea to free my mind.
Thanks and greetings from Belgium
I’ve started doing morning pages 7 days ago and I love them! Takes me about 30 minutes, and I’m amazed at the stuff that comes out–weird thoughts that I never even knew were there, but once they’re on the page I think “Wow, that’s so true!”
I’ve tried to keep diaries before but I’ve always lost interest after a few days. I think the difference with morning pages is that they just have to be honest–not well written. And you can destroy them after you’ve written them if you want. I love the whole concept.
Hi Helen – yes I’m always amazed at what comes up in my journal. And I think you’re spot on – morning pages certainly don’t need to be well written, but total honesty is key. Glad you’re finding them so valuable!
Day 1 on morning journal…i thought how am i going to fill 3 pages!! Didnt need to worry it just flowed and filled the pages with no problem.
I was using a bullet journal before but apart from being confused it wasnt what i wanted to do,so really pleased the morning journal has come to light.
I know that worry about filling three pages – and then it’s like the floodgates open and you can just keep going! Glad to hear you are enjoying the morning pages!